Baptists and the American Civil War: May 11, 1862

CSS Virginia

CSS Virginia

Union forces continue their march to Richmond. Norfolk is now occupied by Union troops, while the U.S. Navy searches for the Confederates’ flag ship ironclad, CSS Virginia. Boxed in and unable to make a run for freedom because of a low tide and unsuitable wind, the order is given to scuttle the Virginia. Early this morning, the ship is blasted to its death, the explosion being heard far and wide. Afterwards, some Union sailors collect pieces of the Virginia as souvenirs.

Following the occupation of Norfolk and the destruction of the Virginia, Union forces move upriver to Portsmouth, seizing control of the city as Confederate forces continue retreating toward Richmond. As with other Southern cities occupied by United States troops, African slaves are set free. Among the newly-freed slaves in Portsmouth is E. G. Corprew, an African Baptist. Liberated and free to travel, Corprew soon becomes a missionary for the (Northern) American Baptist Home Mission Society, working in Virginia during the war. After the war, Corprew pastors the Zion Baptist Church in Portsmouth and moderates the Colored Shiloh Baptist Association, “the state’s largest and most important black Baptist association.”

Corprew is one of many African Baptist slaves during 1862 that are liberated by the United States. While some become missionaries or ministers, Baptist freedmen at large celebrate their release from captivity and begin the process of owning their faith.

Sources: “The Monitor After the Battle of Hampton Roads” (link); E. G. Corprew (link); image of CSS Virginia (link)